A wall of resistance from European Union governments and industry stands in the way of the efforts of Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s climate action commissioner, to secure a pledge from the 27-nation bloc to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by even more than it is already committed to doing.
Hedegaard contends that the EU can afford to set itself higher targets, because Europe’s recent recession – the worst in its history – reduced economic activity and so slashed the cost of meeting the goals set in 2008. The EU’s basic target is a 20 per cent cut in emissions by 2020 from 1990 levels. Hedegaard would like to raise the target to 30 per cent, thereby maintaining Europe’s self-image as the frontrunner in world efforts to tackle climate change.
One frequently aired proposal for overcoming the ever more dangerous strains in European monetary union is to encourage Germany, which enjoys a large current account surplus, to buy more from Greece and other southern European countries struggling with large deficits. This, so the argument goes, would rectify the imbalances that are destabilising the eurozone and would demonstrate Germany’s sense of responsibility and solidarity with its 15 euro area partners.
Europe’s volcanic ash emergency is, if I may say so, a lot of hot air rather than a genuine threat to the economy. It means that a couple of million people failed to show up at work on Monday - but so what? To us Europeans, there’s nothing so unusual about that.
After all, the Icelandic volcano erupted at the fag end of Europe’s astonishingly long Easter break – a luxurious stretch of two and a half weeks, no less. When you get holidays as long as that, the temptation to stay away from work on the first Monday back, and inhale one more time on Europe’s opiate way of life, can be pretty strong.